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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-4371 August 27, 1953

MARIA GUERRERO, applicant-appellant,
vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, oppositor-appellant.

B. Q. Bringas for applicant and appellant.
Assistant Solicitor General Guillermo E. Torres and Solicitor Jaime de los Angeles for oppositor and
appellant.

PARAS, C.J.:

On March 10, 1941, Maria Guerrero filed an application in the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija for
the registration of a parcel of land situated in barrio Macapsing, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, now identified as lot
No. 2765. The Director of Lands opposed the application on the ground that the lot is part of the public
domain. The parties stipulated that the lot was formerly a part of the bed of the Pampanga River which
changed its course after the year 1937, and that Maria Guerrero, owns adjacent lot No. 1725. The trial
judge, in his decision dated October 15, 1948, held that Maria Guerrero, as a riparian owner, has
acquired ownership of the portion of lot No. 2765 bordering on her lot No. 1725 pursuant to article 370
of the old Civil Code. But as said portion was not delimited in the plan and the technical description, her
application was dismissed without prejudice to the filing of an amended application covering only the
portion pertaining to her. Both the applicant and the oppositor have appealed. The applicant, however,
failed to file her brief as a result of which her appeal was dismissed.

The oppositor contends that the lot applied for by Maria Guerrero was declared a part of the public
domain in the decision of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija in cadastral case No. 283, wherein it
was held that "Las carreteras caminos, calles, callejones, cauces de agua, canales de ragadio y otras
partidas de terreno no enumerados como lotes, situadas dentro del perimetro de la masa total de
terreno objeto de este espediente, se declaran terrenos de dominio publico, y por tanto, propiedad del
Gobierno de las Islas Filipinas."

This contention is untenable, since, as pointed out by the trial judge, the decision was promulgated on
December 26, 1923, long before the Pampanga River changed its course in or after 1937. Obviously, the
questioned lot was then still a part of the river bed and therefore public, regardless of said decision. On
the other hand, after the river had changed its course, the former bed has to belong to the riparian
owner by virtue of article 370 of the Civil Code which provides as follows: "Beds of rivers abandoned
because of a natural change in the course of the water belong to the owners of the lands bordering
thereon throughout their respective extents. If the abandoned bed divided estates belonging to
different owners, the new dividing line shall be equidistant from the former boundaries."

The decision in the case of Panlilio vs. Mercado (44 Phil., 695), cited by the oppositor in support of the
argument that there has been no indication on the part of the Government to abandon the lot in
question as part of the former bed of the Pampanga River, is not controlling, be cause in said case there
was a showing that the Government, as soon as practicable, took steps to bring back the old course of
the river. In the case at bar there is no pretense that the Government ever intended to pursue a similar
step.

It is also urged for the oppositor that article 370 is not applicable to the present case, as lot No. 1725
was acquired by Maria Guerrero by virtue of a homestead patent, and said grant cannot be increased
except in the manner provided for in the Public Land Act. This is clearly without merit, because after
Guerrero's title to lot No. 1725 had become absolute, the land ceased to be public and because one of
private ownership entitled to all the benefits granted by law.

Wherefore, the appealed order is affirmed, and it is so ordered without costs.

Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Reyes, Jugo, and Labrador, JJ., concur.